A rain-interrupted day 4 at the MCG has set up a tough decision for green captain Steve Smith as his team enters the final day with a lead of 326 and three wickets in hand.
India’s tail folded in familiar fashion at the start of the day, adding just three runs to their overnight total and losing their final two wickets to be all out for 465 – a first innings deficit of 65 runs.
David Warner made a blistering start to Australia’s second dig, before being trapped lbw by Ravi Ashwin for 40 off 42 balls with his team’s score at 57.
Chris Rogers made his fourth straight half-century but watched Shane Watson (17) and Steve Smith (14) depart cheaply before being bowled by Ashwin for 69, Australia delicately poised at 4/164.
Debutant Joe Burns (9) lasted just 17 balls, and Brad Haddin (13) and Mitchell Johnson (15) also left without making too much of an impression.
Shaun Marsh belatedly proved Australia’s anchor, unbeaten on 62 – his first half-century on home soil – with first innings surprise packet Ryan Harris not out on 8 at the other end.
Just four overs were lost despite an hour and a half rain delay, but the Indian attack ensured an aggressive declaration at the start of the final day will be a tough call for Smith and coach Darren Lehmann to make with Australia at 7/261.
Stud of the day
Shaun Marsh justified his selection as injured skipper Michael Clarke’s replacement with a superb knock, blasting eight boundaries and a towering six to keep the hosts in control.
Steve Smith departing after being caught by a leg slip fieldsman off Umesh Yadav’s bowling meant Australia’s rock had been dislodged, keeping India in the game as a few subsequent wickets fell cheaply.
It all depends on how brave Smith and the Australians are feeling. On a bat-friendly pitch, an immediate declaration would be risky – pushing past a 350-plus lead is more likely, but it may not give their bowlers enough time to claim 10 scalps. Nevertheless, it shapes as an intriguing day 5 showdown.
Ishant Sharma became the eighth Indian bowler to bring up 300 Test wickets.